The Plotlines of Different Ballets


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From tutus to pointe shoes to a little girl’s dream, ballet has been appreciated for decades. People would spend their evenings watching ballets and enjoying the theater. But it leads one to wonder, do they know the plots? Do they know how odd ballets can be? After reading this article, you most definitely will!

Giselle– Let’s begin with a common ballet, one my studio is currently rehearsing for. Giselle is the story of a peasant girl who falls in love with a boy from her village named Albrecht. He proposes to her and she says yes. However, Hilarion is in love with Giselle and becomes jealous of Albrecht. He discovers Albrecht is lying and is a prince engaged to the princess. When Bathilde, Albrecht’s princess, comes to visit the village, Hilarion tells Giselle she cannot marry the man she loves because he is already betrothed to Bathilde. She goes mad, and dies at the end of the first act. The second act begins with Myrtha, Queen of the Willis, or women who have died betrayed by their lover. Hilarion comes to grieve at Giselle’s grave, where the willis arise and dance him to his death. Albrecht comes to visit next, but Giselle cannot help it, she saves him and protects him until sunrise when the willis must go back to their graves. Albrecht mourns Giselle after she returns to the ground, but his life is saved.

The Nutcracker– Continuing with the classics, we have the story of the Nutcracker. Clara and her family host a large Christmas party and invite all their friends. Uncle Drosselmeyer comes to visit and brings with him his magical gifts. Clara is gifted a Nutcracker doll, and loves him at first sight. She dances with the other party guests until it is time for them to go. In the middle of the night, she sneaks back to the living room, grabs the Nutcracker, and falls asleep on the couch. She awakes surrounded by giant rats and their king attacking her. A life size Nutcracker then steps out with his toy soldier army and defeats the rat king. Clara is so grateful, and goes with him to the land of sweets. During this time, they pass through the snow storm, or snow dance that is so widely recognized. In the land of sweets she meets the Sugar Plum fairy and watches all the candies dance. There’s spanish chocolate, arabian coffee, marzipan, chinese tea, and many more. Before her departure, the Sugar Plum and her prince dance. The Nutcracker takes Clara back to her home, where she awakes to see it was all a dream.

Don Quixote– Don Quixote is on a search for his Dulcinea, or the ideal woman of his dreams. In the village, Kitri will be forced to marry Gamache, though she loves Basilio. Don Quixote thinks that Kitri is his Dulcinea, but decides later she is right for Basilio, not him. When the wind picks up, Don Quixote attacks a windmill, thinking it may harm his Dulcinea. Instead, he falls unconscious. He then has a dream about Dulcinea and awakes to find Kitri being forced to marry Gamache. Basilio is so upset he fakes his own suicide and Kitri begs to marry the corpse. When Basilio hears this, he comes back to life and they are married. Don Quixote leaves and continues his endless search for his Dulcinea.

Paquita– Paquite is a young peasant gypsy girl who is dancing among the people when the ballet begins. Everyone loves her, and Clemente asks her to perform a love poem but she refuses. Caballero Francisco de Carmaco and his son Andrés travel into the village. Andres cannot take his eyes off Paquita and confesses his love for her. To prove he is faithful to his word, Paquita tells him to travel with the gypsies for two years before she will accept his proposal. He agrees. Carducha falls for Andres and confesses her love, but he rejects her as his heart still belongs to Paquita. She becomes jealous, fills his bags with the gypsy’s silver, and convinces them to search his bag before releasing him. They find the stolen goods and send him and Paquita to jail. While in jail, Andres proves his noble background with a royal dance. They are then both set free, and Paquita marries Andres. 

Swan Lake– Taking a walk by the lake, the young Princess Odette encounters the evil Von Rothbart who transforms her into a swan. Prince Siegfried is celebrating his 21st birthday in the palace when his mother tells him it’s time to choose a bride and marry. He leaves the party to head to the lakeside. There, he finds a flock of swans. As he aims his crossbow at one of them, she transforms into Odette, the beautiful princess. Odette tells Siegfried that the swans are women under Von Rothbart’s spell, which can only be broken if a man promises his love and remains faithful. At dawn, Odette returns to a swan and says goodbye to the prince. The prince returns to the castle where he refuses to marry any of the women for he loves Odette. Von Rothbart comes to the party with his daughter, Odile, who has been transformed to look like Odette. Siegfried and Odile dance, and he declares his love for her. After doing so, Odile and Von Rothbart transform into themselves again, cackling. Siegfried runs to Odette and apologizes for his mistake- she forgives him but knows she will not remain a swan forever. Instead, she decides to die. She flings herself into the lake and with her death, Von Rothbart dies as well and the other swans are lifted from the curse.

La Bayadere– At the beginning of the story, the High Bramin, priests, and temple dancers are celebrating the Indian Ritual of Fire. Nikiya is chosen as lead temple dancer. The High Bramin declares his love for her, but she rejects him. Instead, she secretly meets with Solor that evening and they swear their love over the sacred fire. Solor’s father has decided he will marry Gamzatti, and when they meet Solor is overwhelmed by her beauty, forgets about Nikiya, and decides to marry Gamzatti instead. The High Bramin tells Solor’s father of Nikiya and Solor, but instead of killing Solor he decides to kill Nikiya. Gamzatti tries to convince Nikiya to give up Solor, but when she refuses, Nikiya frantically tries to kill Gamzatti and fails. Nikiya is then ordered to dance with a basket of flowers containing a deadly snake. She is bitten, and after seeing Solor with Gamzatti, refuses the antidote and dies. Solor dreams of reuniting with Nikiya in the Kingdom of the Shades, but awakes to marry Gamzatti. As they say their vows, the vengeance of the gods are unleashed, and Nikiya and Solor are reunited in eternal love.

Coppelia– The villagers are preparing for a Harvest Festival, but the celebration is interrupted by Dr. Copelius, whose mysterious “daughter” causes Swanhilda and her fiance Franz to fight. Swanhilda and her friends sneak off later to investigate Dr. Copelius’ house as they sense that something is weird. He returns and chases all of them from his house- except for Swanhilda, who hides. Dr. Coppelius brings Franz and tries to take his spirit and put it into the body of his “daughter”, who is a mechanical doll. Coppelius is fooled by Swanhilda’s impression of a doll and thinks his daughter has come back to life. Franz and Swanhilda are reunited and leave Dr. Coppelius heartbroken. In the final act, the lovers are married in a grand celebration.

La Sylphide– A young Scotsman, James, is about to be married to Effie. James is sleeping by the fire when a Sylphide comes, kisses him, and disappears up the chimney. In the morning, James tries to forget about the Sylphide. His cousin, Gurn, is also madly in love with Effie. Madge, an old fortune teller, enters the house and sits by the fire. Madge tells Effie she will not marry James, but Gurn. In distress, James goes to the window and sees the Sylphide again. She tells him to come to the forest with her. Gurn sees this, and runs to get witnesses of James’ behavior. The wedding festivities begin. The Sylphide flies by, invisible to everyone but James. He leaves his fiance to follow her, holding the ring he is to give Effie.The Sylphide takes it and vanishes into the forest. Effie turns to click her glass with James in a toast, but breaks down in tears when he is not there. Gurn and his men leave in search of him. Madge, meanwhile, is creating a poisonous potion to soak a scarf in and wreak her vengeance on James. Gurn finds James’ jacket in the forest and returns to tell Effie he is gone. Instead, she marries Gurn. Meanwhile in the forest, Madge gives James the enchanted scarf and tells him to place it on the shoulders of the Sylphide and she will be his forever. When she approaches, he does just that only to find the poison causes the Sylphide to lose her wings. She dies in the arms of her sisters, and James falls unconscious. Madge rejoices in her triumph. 

Now that you are more familiar with the plotlines of these unique fairy tales, I hope you are able to follow the story and enjoy the next time you watch a ballet; not all stories are as innocent as they seem.